MARYVILLE, Mo. — Tractor aficionados will be revving their engines in Maryville this weekend for the annual Heart of America Tractor Cruise, which will wind its way through northwest Missouri and all the way to Lake of Three Fires in Iowa.
“It was organized 14 years ago by a group of men who liked to play with old tractors,” said Kathy Roach, cruise organizer. “They decided that if they were going to play with old tractors, they needed to do it for a worthwhile cause. And the most worthwhile cause they could think of was kids.”
The cruise has benefited local charities during its tenure. All donations from the first cruise were donated to Camp Quality, a nonprofit camp in northwest Missouri for children with cancer.
A lot of the men and women involved with the cruise are farmers who enjoy showing off the different models of tractors they own. This cruise is a way to do that and help children in numerous ways. They have given to a muscular dystrophy camp, Special Olympics and families in need.
“We used to always feature one. We’d just draw one out of a hat,” Roach said. “We even featured Cockshutt tractors one year.”
This year the tractor drivers will partake in a dinner on Friday, June 21, then kick off the cruise Saturday with an early breakfast, before heading to Iowa.
This year’s cruise begins and ends at the Northwest Missouri State University Raymond J. Courter College Park Pavilion. Roach expressed her thanks to the university for allowing them to line up and use the facility.
Each year the farmers take a different route. It also alternates beginning in Maryville and Stanberry. This year, the flooding has caused an unusually difficult route configuration. The route is usually about 60 miles in length, but this weekend they will travel more to the east, entering Missouri again near Worth County.
Roach suggested that fewer farmers have been able to spare the time this year. The excessively late spring has put many behind in their work, so they must be very efficient. However, she is confident that those who can make an appearance will make up for those who cannot.
“Those silly little old men,” Roach added with a smile. “They pay to drive, buy gas, buy more gas to haul, pay for four meals … They’re just a giving group.”
Others who give are a variety of sponsors. This year some of those include Maryville Hy-Vee and Pizza Ranch. Sponsors do not have to give money, though. Pizza Ranch has donated 200 pieces of chicken for the cruise dinner. Local 4-H and FFA groups have provided meals along the cruise route for the community members who attend. These free-will donations help FFA and FCCLA clubs go to contests across the country.
“Anybody can drive,” said Roach. “It’s open to the public.”
In fact, those interested, may still register by showing up at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 21 at the pavilion. The cost to drive is $35.
Drivers also collect donations on their own time in order to help make a larger donation. To date, the Heart of America Tractor Cruise has raised nearly $170,000, all of which has been donated to regional children’s charities.
The Heart of America Tractor Cruise auction will be held Saturday night. In the past, people have donated quilts and tractors. Cookies, raffle tickets and shirts also will be sold.
Community members are welcome to show support, even if they cannot drive a tractor. They are encouraged to take part in the meals and festivities.